The Gateway Cup – Four Days of Fast Crit Racing in St. Louis

From our friend and guest racer, Nate Brown

I was lucky enough to team up with the NoTubes Elite Road Team this year for the Gateway Cup in St. Louis, MO. I’d ridden with the NoTubes Team a couple weeks before at SRS Knoxville and had a blast. I was looking for a good chunk of fast racing to provide some of the final training I needed to keep my legs good through mid-September. So, when the opportunity to ride Gateway with NoTubes Team arose – I jumped, I booked my tickets, packed my bags and was in St. Louis before I knew it.

Guest riding for another team is an absolute privilege and I would strongly encourage anyone considering an opportunity to take it; make the leap, jump into it, whether or not there is some alternative driver that is even halfway reasonable, (hope of a contract, slot on a team, etc.) do it for the people that you will meet and the suffering that you will share with them.

Tour de Lafayette – Night time crit, flat course, wide open and without any big teams around – anything could happen. Shortly after arriving I got the game plan from Brian Hill. Brian wanted to be ‘active’ early on and was willing to take responsibility for the first half of the race. My job was simple – watch for an opportunity to counter off of a failed brake and get off the front later in the race. I was looking for a group of breakaway riders were coming back towards the peloton around the 45-60min mark.

Brian was active early, round about 45min in it looked like he was moving around less & making more of an effort to stay out of the wind. OK, I thought, get ready, Brian is resting near the front of the race and must be getting ready to throw down an attack. Sure enough, a little bit of patience, the opportunity presented itself and Brian was outta there. Gone, off the front, he got good separation and established a solo break. I started to move up but did my best to remain under the radar. Brian was setting me up for a perfect opportunity to counter off of his move should he get pulled back, I still didn’t really have a feel for who I was racing with and certainty didn’t want to broadcast my intention of countering off of Brian’s move only to get marked and ultimately chased down.
Brian survived a little over 3 laps off the front and came back to the field slowly – a really kind move on his part – he tired out the guys chasing just a little more & allowed me to position myself to counter. Just as we passed under the Start/Finish banner a $200 prime lap was called. Shit… major curveball in my game plan. Primes get everyone’s attention and it can be nearly impossible to get off the front on a prime lap. We rounded turn one, I’d pretty much decided to hold off and save my to counter until just after the prime lap, turn 2 – peloton slows to a pedestrian pace – no one wants to take the lead – everyone wants the money – who’s going to jump…
I did, hit the gas and went for it, sprinted down the straightaway into turn 3, looked back to see who was there. I had a 50m gap and one guy with me. I put in another 15sec, was starting to feel it, looked to him – nothing, I looked at him again and forced the decision, he had to either; pull through, or sit up and be we’d be caught. No dice – he was just keeping track of me – looking back to the peloton again I could see his team organized on the front with their sprinter, Rasshan Bahatti in the 2 or 3 position. I sat up, we were still 300 – 400m from the finish and I wasn’t feeling like I was just going to ride this guy off my wheel. I rejoined in good position, got out of the wind and tried to recover – 5 laps to go.

I connected with Brian and got my final orders for the night. Get up there! He was right, I was in the thirties after the first turn due to a pile-up around turn 3 on the previous lap and desperately needed to find a lane up to the front end of the field. With 3 to go elbows were flying, everyone was jockeying for position. I was able to gain a few spots, Brian was ahead of me and positioned well. 2 to go – more shoving, I gained a couple more spots and the field was starting to get sorted out. 1 to go – Reshuffle through turn 1, I gained a little then lost a spot or two on the back side, my legs were on fire – come on two more turns. I entered the final corner in the 20’s opened it up, gained a little more ground and took 20th, just barely finishing in the money.

The following 3 days seem like a blur, the racing was fantastic – fast, beautiful courses that took us to different neighborhoods throughout the city. Each venue had its own character. David Reyes joined Brian and I for Saturday and Sunday’s races and was a welcome addition to our two man effort. David and I got into the money on Saturday due to some good team work all around. Sunday and Monday were my favorite courses and got progressively tighter and more technical. Despite good efforts, Sunday and Monday we were forced to settle for “close but not quite” and were out of the money. All in all – a fantastic Labor Day Weekend, some well-earned beers, and I was fortunate enough to get to know some new friends a little better.

Until next time – Cheers
Nate Brown

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